ACC Vs. SEC Preview: What Happens When the Dawgs, Gators, Commodores and Gamecocks Meet Their Cross-Conference Foes?

Rob Carr

Georgia tries to fend off Tech's unconventional offense, Florida looks to deal with a onetime national title contender, Vanderbilt squares off with a team that's given it trouble and South Carolina is up against one of the highest-octane offenses in the country

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. Georgia Bulldogs, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
Florida Gators vs. Florida St. Seminoles, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Clemson Tigers, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

The final week of the season brings with it the annual, somewhat-unofficial ACC-SEC challenge. There are three interconference games that will hopefully never go away -- Georgia Tech-Georgia, Florida-Florida State and South Carolina-Clemson. And while Vanderbilt-Wake Forest still struggles to come close to the impact of even the latter game in that list, never mind the other two, it's becoming the kind of series that both schools might be well-advised to consider extending beyond its current end date of 2014.

For Georgia, the challenge was made clear by last week's game against Georgia Southern, despite the lopsided final score. The Bulldogs gave up 5.2 yards a carry to the Eagles, who run a similar offense to Georgia Tech (and whose place on Georgia's schedule right before the Tech game is not coincidental). One would assume that Georgia Tech is better than Georgia Southern, though you can't be too sure with the modern ACC. But the offensive firepower that Georgia brings to the table is impressive, and Aaron Murray is a strong enough quarterback to make the Jackets pay for a weak pass defense.

Florida faces a more significant challenge Saturday. Florida State is an exceptional defensive team, almost certainly the best in the ACC and likely one of the best in the nation. Their one loss against a weak team in a weak ACC will keep the Seminoles from playing for the national title, but no one should confuse them for a slouch. What will be interesting to see is how the Florida State offense handles the Florida defense; it is perhaps the best defense Florida State will play all year. But the Gators will have to score more points than they are used to needing in order to beat the Seminoles.

If Florida manages to win in Tallahassee, it could coincide with a rather ugly showdown in Winston-Salem. That's because Florida State spent its game against Wake Forest dropping safes, trains and whatever large objects it could find on the Deacons, while Florida's 31-17 win against Vanderbilt was not quite as comfortable as the score might suggest. It would also be a fortuitous change for Vanderbilt, whose win last year in Nashville marked its first since 2005; since the series became the regular season-ender in 2007 (with a hiatus in 2009), Vanderbilt had not won until a year ago. Working in its favor this time: Vanderbilt is statistically the better team.

And the night ends with a classic offense-vs.-defense battle when Clemson hosts South Carolina in Death Valley. The Tigers' offense is one of the best in the nation, churning out nearly 536 yards a game and studded with names like Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Andre Ellington, who will be looking to break 1,000 yards for the second straight season. South Carolina will counter with a defense line centered on Jadeveon Clowney and Chaz Sutton but a secondary that will give up plays if Clemson can keep Boyd standing. The question is whether South Carolina's mediocre offense can score enough points against Clemson's mediocre defense to offset what the Tigers do when they have the ball. I'm worried enough that I'm breaking my own tradition of never selecting Clemson to win this game.

Georgia 45, Georgia Tech 38
Florida State 24, Florida 14
Vanderbilt 37, Wake Forest 17
Clemson 28, South Carolina 24

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